Not may horror authors can put ghost hunter on their resume, but Tamara Thorne began her career as a freelance journalist specializing in tracking down and reporting on hauntings. Her paranormal expertise is evident in her newest novel THE FORGOTTEN, which will be hitting the bookstores in time for Halloween. The plot is centered on a small California town experiencing an epidemic of spooks. The author of BAD THINGS, CANDLE BAY, and HAUNTED reveals in this brand new interview some of her personal theories on 'things that go bump in the night.' And Tamara also gives us a short preview of her serial novel that will be hitting stores in 2003.
Q: Have you ever written something and on reflection felt it was too violent? Or too sexual?
THORNE: Sure, but it never sees print. After I write a book, I still have a couple chances to change things before it hits the printer, but I've never done more than tweak a word or phrase to make it more palatable -- or more gruesome. I've never actually removed anything -- I stand by my sex and blood! But I have to admit that when I reread HAUNTED a couple years ago, I was amazed at the titillation level -- I kept giggling and telling Damien, "I can't believe I wrote this!" I do have certain sexual scruples, however, the primary one being not to spy on my main characters too long when they start getting down to business. It's just not nice to peep at your protagonist's genitals! (This does not extend to minor characters; with them I'm likely to let it all hang out.) As for violence, I don't like to harm domestic pets. If I feel I absolutely have to do in a dog, it'll be a nasty dog and there won't be much detail. THE FORGOTTEN is loaded with animals, but I managed to kill nothing with four legs and fur. Animal violence was my big problem with the movie SIGNS. Doing in those German shepherds put me off. Why not some missionaries or a booger-eating child? Something we can all get into? That goes down so much more smoothly, don't you think?
Q: Which of your books do you think would translate most easily to a movie?
THORNE: THE FORGOTTEN, if it's a non-genre oriented flick (ala SIXTH SENSE, low on f/x, heavy on characters). It has a smaller cast than most of my books, so it would need the least rewriting. For out and out genre horror, MOONFALL is a pastiche of horror movies, so that would work well. HAUNTED, too.
Q: Several of your books deal are set on the Central Coast of California, do you have a special connection to the area? Do you think you'll ever write a novel that takes place in a big city?
THORNE: California's central coast is my home away from home. It's relatively unpopulated and beautiful. I love the west coast with its cliffs and rocky tide pools and hard crashing waves. There are caves you can canoe into and forests that come down practically into the water. It's heaven on earth. The entire area also has lots and lots of folklore attached to it. More ghosts than you can shake a stick at.
As to setting a novel in a big city, I did it with TRICKSTER as Chris Curry, but that book will remain out of print. I used Seattle, having picked up the underground city bug as a kid watching Kolchek; The Night Strangler. I don't know if I'll do another. I might. BAD THINGS' Santo Verde is based on Redlands in southern California. It's good-sized, a suburb of surrounding cities, but it feels like it's in a separate world.
The thing about horror is you need to isolate your characters in some way. It can be done in an urban setting, but I really like to set things in the places I like best, so I tend to use more traditional small towns
Q: Many of the characters in THE FORGOTTEN see apparitions and all of them have different reactions, which character reacts most like you would in this situation?
THORNE: I think it depends as much on the particular situation as the individual. Different hauntings cause different reactions ranging from pleasure or delight to a neutral interested "hmmm," to nervousness, fear, and occasionally, terror. In all my wanderings, I've only experienced something that evoked terror once. That was due to the emotion contained in the haunting itself and a very rational worry that it wasn't a haunting, but an intruder.
I don't want to give away anything in the book, but the major hauntings were all things I find especially scary. Hauntings generally delight me so much that I tend to react like someone just gave me a big present to unwrap, but if any of the main hauntings in THE FORGOTTEN manifested in my own house, I'd be out of there in a hurry! Hauntings are like children and dogs: they're fine to visit, but I don't want them in my house!
Q: There is a suggestion in THE FORGOTTEN that schizophrenia and the ability to perceive ghosts are related, do you believe this is the case?
THORNE: It's a very strong suggestion. Some of the professionals I spoke with believe it, some don't. Schizophrenics are ultra sensitive and I wouldn't be at all surprised if some percentage sense things the average person doesn't. Why not? I have an ultra-sensitive nose, but since I don't hear voices, I'm not crazy. What if I could pick up on voices stored in walls? Those are hauntings. I think some people end up diagnosed with mental disorders because they don't know how to handle it -- and that's how science does the handling. Whatever science doesn't understand, it denies. Everything must be pigeon-holed. Science doesn't yet understand hauntings, hence people that routinely experience them strongly are mentally ill, delusional, easily hypnotized, take your pick. Once quantum physics gets into the nooks and crannies of parapsychology and gives the great god science something it can hang some clothes on, some of those crazy people won't be considered ill any more. But I want to add that I'm talking about a percentage of people, probably a pretty small percentage would fall into this category. Schizophrenics as a group lack filters -- they can't concentrate on one idea easily. Imagine being in a room full of televisions, each one on a different channel. That's one of the experiences of a schizophrenia-prone person. Many "normal" people have pretty lousy filters too, but they don't have such long antennas, so it's merely an annoyance, not a disease for them.
Also, it's arrogant to think that what you experience, I experience. The normal senses vary in people considerably and there are always extremes -- someone with an incredible sense of hearing, or taste. Some people have a gene that causes them to perceive intense bitterness in dark leafy vegetables like spinach. But the other 85% or so of the population doesn't experience this taste. They're incapable of it. As for animals, Cats see heat -- infrared. We have an occasional electromagnetic anomaly in our home that scares two of them silly. They watch it. We see nothing, but if we walk into the area they watch, there's enough static to lift our arm hairs and an occasional hot spot. That's like a cold spot, but not as interesting.
Q: What is the best compliment you've received from a reader?
THORNE: That I scared them. I love it when someone tells me I jerked some tears, or that I made them laugh, or that they couldn't put the book down. But going 'Boo!' and making someone jump, that's the best.
Q: What can you tell us about your new serial novel that is coming out next summer?
THORNE: Not a whole lot at this point. It's a trilogy called THE SORORITY and will appear next year in June, July, and August. This is a big fat fun one, based in legends I'm not going to name, and full of very bad girls. There are ghosts and witches and green men and sex and horrible puns. There are murder mysteries at the core, and lots of college life ornamenting them. This is one bad sorority, full of girls who kill for closet space and cheerleaders who raise demons to help the football team. I'm having a blast with it.